Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Keeping the Chicks Cool in the Hot Arizona Summer

One of the toughest times on chickens in my area is the heat in the summer.  We live in the high desert of Arizona.  Although we're not nearly as hot as they are down in the Phoenix Valley, we still feel the summer heat.  But thankfully we cool way down at night, sometimes as much as 20+ degrees cooler than down in Phoenix.  Its because we are not covered with pavement.  We have exposed earth (and lots of it) to help cool things down when the sun sets.  In Phoenix the hard man-made surfaces (roads, parking lots, and buildings) absorb extreme heat all day then radiate it back at you after dark so sometimes it can still be 95 degrees after the sun goes down!  I feel sorry for those chicken keepers trying to keep their chickens from becoming 'oven baked chicken' with the feathers on!

To help my chickens stay cooler I have done a few things that I hope adds up to enough to keep them more comfortable in the summer.   First we have a mister that runs on a timer that comes on at about 10:00 am and automatically turns off at about 4:30pm.  By this time of day the sun is on the other side of the chicken run and partially blocked by the hills around us, but the sunlight is still out so it will dry up any water left on the ground by the mister.  The chickens don't like the water to spray directly on them so I have to make sure it is not too close to where they eat or drink because I don't want them to avoid eating and drinking all day.  It is actually placed on top of my grazing it gently mists the greenery growing in the frame.

Green mister attached to the wire fence, misting over the grazing frame with the wind blowing the cool air towards where the chickens hang out under the coop.

The coop itself serves as a source of shade because it sits on approximately 12" high posts and it's 10 feet tall.  So during the early and late part of the day the coops tall stature provides shade in front of or behind the coop.  And at all times after about 8:00am there is shade underneath the coops 6' x 6' floor.  The chickens love to hang out under the coop during the hottest time of the day because the wind blows the cool air from the mister towards them (we live on top of a hill so the wind is almost always blowing). That wind also makes for a nice breeze when sitting in the shade anywhere in the chicken run.

Chicks chillin under the coop.
Since the coop is a large wooden building with a metal roof and no insulation, it can get pretty warm inside during the day.  When the sun sets, it cools down pretty quickly to a comfortable temperature inside around the low 70's.  The chickens don't hang out inside the coop during the day, but Big Red does go inside to lay her egg.  Big Red seemed to be following the 25 hour rotating schedule (chicken ovulation cycle), she was laying early in the morning, but it has moved back 1 hour each day until now she is deciding to lay in the hottest time of the afternoon.  It can get pretty hot in there from noon to 4:00pm so I needed to move that hot air out so she and her egg don't cook while she is laying the egg.  The side windows are approximately 21" square and has about a 1-1/2" boxed in frame, so I bought a 20" square box fan to fit in the upper window on the side opposite of the most shaded side.  I used wire in the corners to attach the corners of the box fan to the hardware cloth in the windows.

Box fan installed in upper window of the coop on the side with the least amount of shade. Blowing out.
The fan is set to blow the air out.  Since this is the side with the least amount of shade I didn't want to pull that warmer air inside the coop.  By making it blow out, it would essentially suck air in from the opposite side which is in the shade most of the day.

As you can see in the picture above, the window on the inlet side is a lower screened in window so the current of air moving will come in from the lower section of one side and blow out on the upper side of the opposite side, thereby moving more of the inside air around.  If I had opened the upper window on this side I might have only moved the air at the upper level in the coop.  Having the fan blow out, rather than in, also prevented the current of air from blowing the litter around (I use the deep litter method).  The normal temperatures inside the coop on a hot day (when outside temps are in the 90's) would be about 110-120 degrees, but with the fan on I can keep it at about 5 degrees warmer than outside, and of course it is shady in there.  Warm, but not unbearable if you need to go lay an egg.

Another way the chickens say cool is to follow the shade.  In the am they stay pretty much under or behind the coop.  As the sun gets pretty high in the sky the house offers about 4 feet of shade for the full depth (20 feet) of the run.  So it stays pretty comfortable up against the side of the house.  That is where I have the water fountain installed.  The chickens tend to dribble a bit of water when they get a drink from the nipples so this makes for a great place to scratch down to the earth and cool themselves.   Once it starts getting about 5-6:00pm the sun is mostly blocked by the house, height of the coop, and hills around us, so everything starts cooling down.

Chillin around the Chicken Fountain.
One other thing I do to help them stay cooler is bring them cool treats just before it starts to get hot.  Watermelon, strawberries, and veggies scraps from the night before are a favorite around here.  I can eat an entire watermelon in a day...I shouldn't, but I can (and do) so the chickens have a never ending supply of cool watermelon to share with me.

Chicks at 6-1/2 weeks old enjoying watermelon.
Cool Summertime Treats.
When it was cool at night I was giving them some scratch before bed so the corn would warm them up for the night, but not is just too hot for that now.  But they have been enjoying the results of my fodder experimentation' greens are always a welcomed treat!  

How do you keep your chickens cooler during the hot summer months where you live?  I would love it if you shared your tips and tricks...we could all learn from each other to benefit our chicks.

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
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This post was shared in the Clever Chicks Blog Hop #39